BROOKSVILLE — Four years ago, Dylan Wilson and the rest of Hernando High School's freshmen class gathered in the school's auditorium to hear successful seniors encourage them to work hard for four years.
The students signed a big banner committing to graduating from the school, and they all received a green plastic wristband as a visual reminder of that pledge.
Fast forward to this year.
Assistant principal Angela Miller recently rewarded the seniors who held on to those green encouragement symbols with a congratulatory breakfast of breakfast sandwiches, fruit and doughnuts. "I really wanted to recognize the ones who kept it (the green wristband) as a symbol," she said, "because when we had the ceremony we made it a symbol of commitment."
Dylan, now 18, was at that breakfast. He has his wristband and is graduating on time. Four years ago he said he was quite sure he would graduate and was already planning to join the United States Air Force to become an officer and a pilot.
He has tweaked that a bit. "I still plan to go into the Air Force," he said, "but as enlisted for air traffic control or cyber security." He is looking at the military as a career.
As for the wristband, he has had for all his high school years, "I look at it every day to remind myself to get my high school diploma to get into the Air Force and serve my country," he said. He says he will probably hold on to it or "maybe give it to my brother, because he starts high school next year."
Brenykah Munford, 19, also at the breakfast, thought back to the original pledge and said, "It made me realize that I want to make something of my life and go for and be a better person and change the world with knowledge." Brenykah plans to attend the University of Central Florida to study massage therapy.
Graduating senior Blakely Keeling, 18, said, "At first I thought it was just a silly little armband. But now, four years later, it sinks in. Now it's bigger than that. You're going out into the world."
Blakely added that he looked at the wristband from time to time over the years. "I'd open my drawer and it would remind me of what I could do," he said. "If I can commit to graduating high school, I can commit to graduating college."
He says he will probably keep the wristband in "a china cabinet, keep it around so when I go to college, I can see it."
Blakely plans to begin college at Pasco-Hernando State College and transfer to the University of South Florida or the University of Florida to study heath science.
"Eventually I want to get my doctorate in physical therapy. I want to help people," he said. "That's what I look forward to."
Kayla Hill, 18, said the green wristband "really made me want success more. I'm probably going to put it with all my graduation stuff." Kayla plans to attend Pasco-Hernando State College, transfer to a university and study medicine. She would like to be a doctor.
For Zoe Lerkins, 17, the wristband was "just something I wanted to keep just to have for my whole high school career. I'm going to keep it with my high school mementos and wear it to my class reunion," she said.
Zoe plans to attend Finger Lakes Community College in New York and then attend Rochester University or St. John Fisher University in New York. "I want to be a pediatric nurse practitioner," she said.
Aaliyah Mobley, 18, said, "The green band came to mean over the years that my teachers and staff really wanted me to graduate and become something good in life. I'm definitely going to keep it to remind me of the great experiences I had in high school and, if I have kids, maybe pass it on to them."
Aaliyah plans to attend Saint Leo University or Oral Roberts University for nursing and then a clinical psychology degree.
Assistant principal Angel Miller said she thinks the program has made a difference. "I think it has a ripple effect. I think there is an element of pride and accomplishment attached to it," she said. "The students realized it gave them a little more individualized attention. "I'm very thrilled with the program And I'm happy with what it's done."